Flashes 07-13-2000

Sign Ze Peppers and AG on Their Face

Sign Ze Peppers

The fur is flying in Superior Court as candidates unleash their lawyers in attempts to knock rivals off the ballot. In one hilarious instance, two incumbent District 6 Republicans -- Lori Daniels and Richard Kyle -- have been bumped because they failed to turn in the required valid signatures.

Others are having problems because of confusion over who can sign nominating petitions. Former state lawmaker Sandra Kennedy, who wants a seat on the Corporation Commission, and upstart sheriff's candidate Bobby Ayala both have been disqualified by judges. Both Democrats relied on the secretary of state's assurance that they could gather signatures from people outside their own party. That advice grew out of the voter-approved 1998 constitutional amendment that created an open primary in Arizona. Problem is, the forms used for nominating petitions haven't caught up with the new law.

Ayala, who needs 1,944 valid signatures to make the ballot, collected 3,423 John Hancocks -- 383 of them from independents and the like. When the dust cleared in court, however, a judge decided he was 36 signatures short.

No word on the numbers behind Kennedy's dilemma.

State Elections Director Jessica Funkhouser believes candidates who gathered signatures from people outside their parties should be included on the ballot.

"It's not over yet," she says. "We had our [candidates' instruction] pamphlet reviewed by the attorney general before we issued it, and their opinion was that it was okay."

Judges, obviously, are seeing it in a different light.

Ayala says he will join Kennedy in appealing his case.

"We'll follow what the higher court says," adds Funkhouser, who noted that 12 legislative candidates and five people seeking Maricopa County posts have had their nominating petitions challenged.

She says the ballots must be printed 33 days before the September 12 primary. "These cases have to be decided pretty quickly," she says.

AG on Their Face

Most news organizations take pains to avoid cozying up to elected officials. It's difficult to report objectively and critically on a friend.

KTAR radio appears to be an exception. The station has been running self-congratulatory promos featuring the voice of Arizona Attorney General Janet Napolitano.

"This is Janet Napolitano, Arizona Attorney General," the ad begins. "I just want to congratulate KTAR for their Associated Press awards recognizing the excellence of its news department."

Another voice comes on the air to describe the awards before Napolitano concludes, "That's one of the main reasons to listen to Newsradio 620 KTAR."

(Don't gasp over KTAR's "sweep" of the vaunted awards -- it competes against only two other news stations, KFYI and KJZZ.)

KTAR news director Brian Barks tells the Flash he understands why somebody might question the propriety of an elected official endorsing a news organization, but sees no potential conflict of interest in accepting and broadcasting Napolitano's platitudes.

"I have no problems with reporting negative stories about her," Barks says. "I don't think we're having any type of an alliance. . . . We would cover her just as aggressively as we've done in the past."

Of course, KTAR and other stations regularly put elected officials on the air, where chat hosts tend to loft marshmallow questions at them. When he was AG, Grant Woods took the practice into a new sphere by hosting his own weekly show on KTAR. Since leaving office, Woods has taken his daily gabble to KFYI -- he won the AP award for best talk show last year.

I guess nobody should be surprised by Napolitano's warm fuzzy for KTAR. Not when the lines between news, politics, celebrity and entertainment are increasingly and unashamedly blurred.

As an aside, the Flash asks Barks to provide an example of any "negative stories" (his term) that KTAR has done on Napolitano, who was elected AG in 1998.

"Off the top of my head, I can't think of anything," he replies.

 
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